September 17, 2021

Tampa Bay and Zunino Skip Arbitration (FanGraphs)

The Tampa Bay Rays announced Monday afternoon that they have come to terms with catcher Mike Zunino on a one-year contract. Zunino will be paid $4.5 million in 2020 in what would have been his final year of salary arbitration eligibility. Tampa also holds a club option for 2021 at the same $4.5 million price.

It’s not the sexiest signing, but it’s one where both parties “settle” for something. Zunino struggled offensively in 2019, hitting .165/.232/.312, first splitting time with Michael Perez and then with Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud’s healthy comeback season featured a healthier .263/.323/.459 in Tampa, resulting in him seizing the majority of the catching job from Zunino, with 80 starts in the 125 games the Rays played after acquiring him. Zunino remains a more-than-competent defensive catcher, but continuing a career-long streak of above-average framing runs isn’t quite enough when your wRC+ at the plate is 45.

With d’Arnaud having already departed for Atlanta in free agency, non-tendering or trading Zunino would have left them very thin behind the plate. Internally, the team’s top catching prospect, Ronaldo Hernandez, is a few years away and…

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